Beyond false balance: How interpretive journalism shapes media coverage of climate change (2017)


This study explores two pre-eminent features of transnational media coverage of climate change: The framing of climate change as a harmful, human-induced risk and the way that reporting handles contrarian voices in the climate debate. The analysis shows how journalists, and their interpretations and professional norms, shape media debates about climate change. The study links an analysis of media content to a survey of the authors of the respective articles. It covers leading print and online news outlets in Germany, India, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland. It finds that climate journalism has moved beyond the norm of balance towards a more interpretive pattern of journalism. Quoting contrarian voices still is part of transnational climate coverage, but these quotes are contextualized with a dismissal of climate change denial. Yet niches of denial persist in certain contexts, and much journalistic attention is focused on the narrative of ‘warners vs. deniers,’ and overlooks the more relevant debates about climate change.

Brüggemann, Michael; Engesser, Sven (2017): Beyond false balance. How interpretive journalism shapes media coverage of climate change. In Global Environmental Change 42, pp. 58–67. Available online at

The Appeasement Effect of a UN Climate Summit on the German Public (2017)


The annual UN climate summits receive intense global media coverage, and as such could engage local publics around the world, stimulate debate and knowledge about climate politics, and, ultimately, mobilize people to combat climate change. Here we show that, in contrast to these hopes, although the German public were exposed to news about the 2015 Paris summit, they did not engage with it in a more active way. Comparing knowledge and attitudes before, during and after the summit using a three-wave online panel survey (quota sample, N = 1121), we find that respondents learnt a few basic facts about the conference but they continue to lack basic background knowledge about climate policy. Trust in global climate policy increased a little, but citizens were less inclined to support a leading role for Germany in climate politics. Moreover, they were not more likely to engage personally in climate protection. These results suggest that this global media event had a modest appeasing rather than mobilizing effect.

Brüggemann, Michael; De Silva-Schmidt, Fenja; Hoppe, Imke; Arlt, Dorothee; Schmitt, Josephine B. (2017): The appeasement effect of a United Nations climate summit on the German public. In Nature Climate Change 7 (11), pp. 783–787. Available online at

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Climate Engagement in a Digital Age: Exploring the Drivers of Participation in Climate Discourse Online in the Context of COP21 (2017)

Various scholars underscore the importance of public engagement with climate change to successfully respond to the challenges of global warming. However, although online media provide various new opportunities to actively engage in climate discourse so far very little is known about the drivers of this form of engagement. Against this background, this study tested a theoretical model on the effects of media and interpersonal communication on participation in climate discourse online using data from a representative online survey of German citizens (n = 1392) carried out while COP21. Overall, the results show that receiving information on climate change from social media (social networks, Twitter, blogs), active information seeking online and interpersonal conversations about COP21 strongly encourage participation in climate discourse online. Moreover, results provide relevant insights on the role of interest in climate politics, personal issue relevance and climate scepticism as preconditions of communication effects.

Arlt, Dorothee; Hoppe, Imke; Schmitt, Josephine B.; De Silva-Schmidt, Fenja; Brüggemann, Michael (2017): Climate Engagement in a Digital Age. Exploring the Drivers of Participation in Climate Discourse Online in the Context of COP21. In Environmental communication 49 (3), pp. 84–98. Available online at

Rethinking Hallin and Mancini Beyond the West: An Analysis of Media Systems in Central and Eastern Europe (2017)


This study aimed to validate and extend Hallin and Mancini’s framework of comparison to discriminate empirical types of media systems in Central and Eastern Europe. We tested and complemented their original dimensions by using aggregated data from 11 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Our study shows the strength of political parallelism and public service broadcasting as variables for comparison. It also found that press freedom and foreign ownership point to significant differences between media systems in the region. Finally, a cluster analysis revealed the existence of three groups of media systems and provides empirical support for the assertion that there is no unique type of East-Central European media system.

Herrero, Laia Castro; Humprecht, Edda; Engesser, Sven; Brüggemann, Michael; Büchel, Florin (2017): Rethinking Hallin and Mancini Beyond the West: An Analysis of Media Systems in Central and Eastern Europe. In International Journal of Communication 11, pp. 4797–4823. Available online at

Framing the Newspaper Crisis (2016)


This article argues that discourses of a newspaper “crisis” should not be regarded simply as descriptions of the actual state of the press but also as a means by which strategic actors frame the situation. The emerging frames can have substantial consequences for media policy making. The study identifies four key frames used to portray the newspaper “crisis” and discusses their relevance for public debates in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Similarities and differences are examined through 59 in-depth interviews with policymakers and industry executives as well as a qualitative analysis of policy documents and relevant media coverage. The study demonstrates that debates on the newspaper “crisis” are only partly influenced by (1) economic realities and (2) media policy traditions in the six countries but also reflect (3) the strategic motives of powerful actors and (4) the diffusion of frames across borders, particularly those coming from the United States. A transnationally uniform paradigm emerges according to which the state is expected to play the role of a benevolent but mostly passive bystander, while media companies are expected to tackle the problem mainly by developing innovative content and business strategies. This liberal market paradigm displays one blind spot however: it does not seriously consider a scenario where the market is failing to provide sustainable journalistic quality.

Brüggemann, Michael; Humprecht, Edda; Kleis Nielsen, Rasmus; Karppinen, Kari; Cornia, Alessio; Esser, Frank (2015): Framing the Newspaper Crisis. In Journalism Studies 17 (5), pp. 533–551. Available online at

Building Empirical Typologies with QCA: Toward a Classification of Media Systems (2016)


Typologies are omnipresent both in everyday life as well as in the sciences. Epistemologically, there are several systematic ways to build typologies, such as qualitative, theory-based descriptions on one end and quantitative, exploratory statistical means on the other end of the spectrum. Both have their specific advantages and disadvantages, which can be bridged by applying set-theoretic methods, such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). The contribution of this paper is substantial and methodological: First, we show how QCA can enhance our understanding of media systems by building a typology that draws on Hallin and Mancini’s framework. The main improvement of QCA is the ability to identify ideal types as well as border cases. In our analysis, we move beyond the widely discussed case of Great Britain and take a closer look at further border cases such as Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Second, QCA has been scarcely applied to build typologies and if so, only in neighboring disciplines. Thus, we aim at familiarizing comparative political communication scholars with this method.

Büchel, Florin; Humprecht, Edda; Castro-Herrero, Laia; Engesser, Sven; Brüggemann, Michael (2016): Building Empirical Typologies with QCA: Toward a Classification of Media Systems. In The International Journal of Press/Politics 21 (2), pp. 209–232. Available online at

Mapping the minds of the mediators: The cognitive frames of climate journalists from five countries (2016)


This article is based on the premise that journalists play an important role as mediators of scientific information and their interpretations of climate change influence media debates and public opinion. The study maps the minds of climate journalists from five different countries (Germany, India, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and different types of leading media outlets. It identifies five cognitive frames that vary between attributing the responsibility for climate change to lobbying and national interests, blaming consumerist culture and the capitalist system, and expressing technological optimism. The study provides evidence for the emergence of a sustainability frame, indicates a “blame game” between industrialized countries and emerging economies, and shows the demand for a global ecological discourse. Finally, it explores how individual factors such as specialization, professional aims, and political alignment correlate with the cognitive frames of journalists.

Engesser, Sven; Brüggemann, Michael (2015): Mapping the minds of the mediators. The cognitive frames of climate journalists from five countries. In Public Understanding of Science 25 (7), pp. 825–841. Available online at

Between frame setting and frame sending. How journalists contribute to news frames (2014)


Framing has grown into a thriving approach to analyze media content and effects. Research on frame building is less well developed. Particularly journalists’ contributions to shaping the frames in the news deserve further analysis. This article conceptualizes these contributions to creating news frames: Journalistic framing practices are situated on a continuum between frame setting and frame sending. Journalists frame their articles more or less in line with their own interpretations. The challenge for research is to identify the conditions that determine the degree of journalistic frame setting. The article therefore identifies mechanisms and factors that play a role in determining to what degree journalistic frame enactment takes place.

Brüggemann, Michael (2014): Between Frame Setting and Frame Sending: How Journalists Contribute to News Frames. In Communication Theory 24 (1), pp. 61–82. Available online at

Between Consensus and Denial: Climate Journalists as Interpretive Community (2014)


This study focuses on climate journalists as key mediators between science and the public sphere. It surveys journalists from five countries and from five types of leading news outlets. Despite their different contexts, journalists form an interpretive community sharing the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and agreeing on how to handle climate-change skeptics. This consensus is particularly strong among a core of prolific writers while climate-change skepticism persists among a periphery of occasional writers. The journalists’ attitudes towards climate change are connected to their usage of sources indicating that interpretive communities include journalists and scientists.

Brüggemann, Michael; Engesser, Sven (2014): Between Consensus and Denial: Climate Journalists as Interpretive Community. In Science Communication 36 (4), pp. 399–427. Available online at

Transnational communication as deliberation, ritual and strategy (2014)


Globalized communication flows transcend and transform national borders. Transnational media outlets targeting audiences around the globe, issues of global concern are subjected to border-crossing public debates, media events receive transnational attention, and public diplomacy efforts succeed – and fail – in characteristic patterns around the world. In response to these phenomena the article shows how the study of transnational communication can benefit from combining three theoretical perspectives that are rarely studied together: communication as deliberation, as ritual and as strategy. Particularly in explaining the failures of transnational communication, explanatory potential often seems to lie just outside the limited vision of each of the perspectives – and outside the scope of empirical analyses that are limited to Western contexts.

Brüggemann, Michael; Wessler, Hartmut (2014): Transnational Communication as Deliberation, Ritual, and Strategy. In Communication Theory 24 (4), pp. 394–414. Available online at